Early July in Outback Queensland. Nights arrive with a cold suddenness and dry July days, as well as being a fine time to reflect upon extracurricular imbibement, are great days for testing the bona fides of Australia’s best campers.
Think enormously proportioned blazing nightly campfires, crisp, sharp mornings and daily examinatory 4WD and camper forays over bone-dry dirt tracks. Camper was there for business and winter is a month for business. Of course, Camper’s chief mission is working out ways to have more fun, so ‘business’, as we see it, ain’t too bad. At the end of the day after all, Camper’s in the fun business.
Winter camping is a maligned pastime. It doesn’t get the same kudos as warm weather camping, for obvious reasons, but it definitely has its advantages. Peace, quiet and plenty of room to stretch-out being the obvious ones. Yet most people blithely ignore winter, failing to see it as an opportune time to experience the countryside in a different light.
Yes it’s chilly, but so what? These days there’s a host of thermal undergarments available to clad goose-pimpled flesh, some made out of A-grade quick-dry merino wool. It’s definitely worth pulling on the long-johns.
The general vibe of winter is rewarding for a whole host of reasons. Less crowds, bigger campfires, hot chocolate tastes better and you get to wear a nice comfortable beanie as well as your super-comfortable long-johns.
But more than simply escaping the summer hordes, winter’s chilly daytime hours focus one’s resolve, moving things along at a faster rate.
Plus it’s also a great time for the gear junkies among us — lightweight wicking jackets, waterproofed this-and-that, cool boots and a whole host of other kit and kaboodle aimed at keeping you warm when the mercury plummets. In summer its thongs, cut-off jeans, perhaps a loose singlet or t-shirt and that’s it.
And then on winter nights, the seductive call of a cosy camper bed starts to figure large in anyone’s consciousness. And hitting the sack, especially if it’s inside a cosy camper like the Lifestyle Reconn R2, let me tell you, is a time to savour.
Meal times, too, tend to be more convivial affair during winter. Hearty meals cooked over fire are definitely better, too. After our full and lively days out enjoying the Aussie bush testing the Reconn R2, each evening as we returned to the welcoming campsite was like that scene from Jaws where the shark mounts the boat’s back transom, coaxing the unfortunate Quint into its gaping maw. Lifestyle made sure we ate like Great Whites during a summer blockbuster.
The Reconn R2 is equipped with probably my favourite external camper kitchen set-up among the many I’ve enjoyed over the years. Having a handy, almost immediately accessible kitchen at your fingertips is a big win, day-after-day, night-after-night, when out camping in the bush, far away from kitchens where food preparation surfaces and well-positioned pantry storage are taken for granted.
THE SOUL OF AN OFFROADER
Getting every single Aussie outside and offroad camping is a guiding manufacturing principle of Lifestyle Campers. This is a core capability requirement, not just for the Reconn R2, but for every camper in the Lifestyle stable. Offroad camping is woven into the DNA of every product that rolls off their factory floor. Their campers, basically, are designed and built to enable access to pristine remote camping locations way off the beaten track.
As the testing process proceeded, the kitchen scrutinised, the awning fiddled with and the interior bunk and ensuite configuration pondered, the Lifestyle people kept reminding me, “the Reconn R2 is an offroader, it’s designed to get you offroad.”
Given this non-negotiable, the Reconn R2 is suitably equipped with the best suspension and tow set-up in the marketplace. A quick gander down below reveals Cruisemaster XT coil spring independent trailing arm suspension, with four shock absorbers and 12” electric brakes. Built from the ground up on a chassis and drawbar composed of 150mm galvanised steel and shod in 16” offroad steel rims and 265/75 R16 MT tyres, the Reconn R2 clocks in at (standard, dry, spec) 1600kg Tare, allowing for an ATM of 2800kg. This equates to a whopping 1200kg payload capacity. Up front, the Reconn R2 hitches to the towball via a Cruisemaster D035 offroad hitch and tow pin.
Once you’ve sampled the ergonomic usability of a recessed kitchen, it’s hard to go back to the old slide-out numbers. The Reconn R2’s outdoor living area is, in simple terms, easy, straight-forward and delightful to use. Loads of bench and storage space and it’s almost immediately accessible. All you need to do is unclip and fix an upward folding side panel and you’re ready to start boiling a billy of tea. Everywhere at arm’s reach are a myriad of pantry food storage lockers, ample food preparation bench space and handy access to your REDARC Manager 30 BMS, MPPT solar controller and tank water flow gauge. Above this beautifully designed food prep and electronic monitoring hub is a roll-out awning that can be fully extended and fixed into place in less than two minutes, if you’re in a hurry. Basically the process is: locate blissful campsite, park, wind out awning, lift side panel to reveal the recessed kitchen, kick back and begin camping holiday.
HAVE IT YOUR WAY
Probably the most appealing feature of any camper that costs in excess of fifty grand, for me anyway, is its ongoing usability factor as personal camping preferences change over time. The Reconn R2 straddles a wide variation in camping options. I can’t think of a camper model with as many possible configurations.
The adaptability results from the way it is designed around four core elements. Offroad-ability and the extremely usable recessed kitchen design, as mentioned, are good to go for any camping adventure as they are, but the Reconn R2’s large volume free-storage areas and three distinct customisable interior fit-out options are able to cater for pretty much every conceivable camping requirement.
The massive storage locker on the opposing side of the Reconn R2’s kitchen is big enough to take scuba tanks, wetsuits, tank compressor, regulators, flippers and the rest of it if diving is your thing. If it’s not, and you’re planning on venturing into the outback with your family in tow, the same locker could be used to store tricycles, swags, a doll’s house, a totem tennis kit and perhaps cricket bats and tennis rackets, skateboards and scooters.
What I’m trying to say is that whatever you decide to bring along with you, the storage volume contained within the Reconn R2 will be able to cater for whatever particular camping adventure you have in mind. When it comes down to it, the greater the volume of free-storage, the greater the variety of camping adventures possible.
This maxim extends to the inside as well. Up the back is a beautifully comfortable queen sized bed accessed by a set of light-weight but super strong fold-away steps. Up front, if you so wish, is a shower and toilet ensuite.
Separating these two areas, front and back, are a series of interior storage lockers for clothes and other belongings and a U-shaped dinette. Above the dinette a single bunk folds down and the dinette itself can quickly convert to another bunk. But the configuration of these elements, how they work together, is up to personal preference.
Speak with the people at Lifestyle.
Part of their due diligence is enacting a sense of corporate responsibility. This part of the relationship — developing clear customer to manufacturer understanding — is crucial to Lifestyle. They see it as a chief responsibility to be crystal clear why it is each potential customer wants to purchase one of their products. If you’ve opted for a Reconn R2, for example, they’ll then sit down and quiz you in order to discover what it is you intend on doing with your Reconn R2.
Have two or three young children? They’ll perhaps advise you abstain from fitting the shower and toilet ensuite in favour of added bunk space. Kids all grown up and a bit baulky about joining mum and dad on summer camping holidays? Then perhaps the addition of an ensuite is for you.
The take out is to begin discussing your adventure plans with the team at Lifestyle early in the piece. This question and answer session is fundamental to you selecting the ideal camper for your own particular needs.
SHOULD YOU BUY ONE?
The Lifestyle Reconn R2 is among the most versatile campers on the market. While there are some that perform better offroad and others that are a little funkier inside, the Lifestyle Reconn R2 fits the bill across a wider variety of possible offroad camping adventures than just about all others.
It’s superbly designed, everything just works — from the placement and ergonomic workflow of the outdoor living area and the free-space storage volume to the customisable interior fit-out options.
The Lifestyle Reconn R2 has been around for a few years now. It’s a classic built around a few core functionalities. Superb, top of the range, offroad suspension and towing hardware and capability. Excellent outdoor living courtesy of lightning quick set up and beautifully designed componentry and pleasingly customisable interior fit-out options. Double thumbs up.
Suspension Cruisemaster XT Coil Spring Independent Trailer Arm Suspension with Twin Shocks
Brakes 12" Electric Drum Brakes
Coupling Cruisemaster DO35
Chassis/drawbar Triple Drawbar - 150mmx50x3mm x 2 + 50mmx50mmx3mm x 1
Body Aluminium Composite
Wheels/Tyres 285/75 R16" Load Rated Tyres & Alloy Mags
Style Off-Road Pop Top
Body size 4.4m (length) x 1.88m (width, including awning) x 2.15m (tow height)
Length 5.8m (hitch to camper tail light)
Gas cylinders 2 x 4kg
Water 180 Litre (2 x 90L Poly Tanks) with option to increase to 270L (additional 90L Poly Tank)
Cooktop 2 or 3 burner gas options
Kitchen External Deluxe Recessed Kitchen
Battery 1x 120Ah + 1 x 150W Solar Panels
PRICE AS TESTED
- Classic and functional design
- Class-leading custom options
- Offroad capability and weight
- Manufacturing quality
- Beautifully ergonomic recessed kitchen
- Lightning quick set-up
- Quite bulky for nimble towing needs
- Exterior add ons could come off if squeezing through narrow branch-strewn trails
CAMPER STAR RATINGS
Fit for intended purpose — 8
Innovation — 7.5
Self-sufficiency — 7
Quality of finish — 8
Build quality — 8
Offroadability — 8
Comforts — 8
Ease of use — 9
Value for money — 8
X-Factor — 7
Lifestyle Camper Trailers
Address 7 Monte Street, Slacks Creek, QLD 4127
Phone 07 3208 8350